The Inspiring Journey of India’s First Female Chartered Accountant: R. Sivabhogam
In the annals of Indian history, the names of great freedom fighters, politicians, and civil servants are often celebrated. However, there is a remarkable and lesser-known story that deserves recognition—the story of India’s first female Chartered Accountant, R. Sivabhogam. At a time when India was still struggling for independence and educational opportunities for women were limited, she shattered barriers and paved the way for women in the field of accountancy. Let’s delve into the inspiring journey of this trailblazing woman.
Early Life and Education
R. Sivabhogam was born on July 23, 1907, and received her primary education at Lady Wellington School in Chennai. She continued her academic journey by obtaining a degree from Queen Mary’s College, Chennai. However, it was her involvement in Mahatma Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement that would shape her destiny.
The Transformative Jail Experience
Joining the non-cooperation movement in the fight for India’s independence, R. Sivabhogam found herself serving a year in prison. It was during this time behind bars that she envisioned a new path for herself—an accountant’s career. Her elder sister played a significant role in supporting her dream.
Pursuing a Diploma in Accountancy
After her release from prison, R. Sivabhogam wasted no time and enrolled in a diploma course in accountancy in 1933. In 1933, she became India’s first female Chartered Accountant, etching her name in history. Following this achievement, she underwent training in the Chartered Secretaryship (CS) program under the mentorship of C.S. Shastri.
Battling Legal Hurdles
With her education complete, R. Sivabhogam aspired to practice as an independent accountant. However, during British rule, there were restrictions on individuals with a criminal record, making it difficult for her to practice as an accountant. She challenged this injustice in court, and the verdict was in her favor. In 1937, she commenced her practice as an independent accountant, becoming the first woman to do so.
Becoming a Member of ICAI
When the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) was established in 1950, R. Sivabhogam was one of its earliest members and fellows. Her relentless pursuit of excellence and her contributions to the field of accountancy paved the way for other women to follow in her footsteps.
The Legacy of Queen Mary’s College
It’s worth noting that R. Sivabhogam studied at Queen Mary’s College in Chennai, a college founded in 1914. It was the first women’s college in the city and the third oldest in the country. When it started, only 33 female students attended. Today, Queen Mary’s College boasts an enrollment of over 5,000 students. In the 2022 NIRF rankings, the college secured the 47th position.
R. Sivabhogam’s remarkable journey from prison to becoming India’s first female Chartered Accountant is a testament to her determination, resilience, and the power of education. Her story continues to inspire generations of young women to break barriers and pursue their dreams, no matter the challenges they face.
In conclusion, R. Sivabhogam’s life serves as a beacon of hope and empowerment for women in India and beyond. Her dedication to her dreams, her courage to challenge societal norms, and her contribution to the field of accountancy make her a true trailblazer. As we celebrate her legacy, let us remember that barriers are meant to be broken, and dreams are meant to be pursued.